Creating calm with a Zen garden

A Zen garden also offers a dedicated space to  calm down and focus for those practising meditation or mindfulness. PHOTO | PROMISE TWINAMUKYE

What you need to know:

  • Gardens serve different purposes such as meditation, aesthetic appeal, or both. The garden’s purpose will guide your design choices.

Finding calm, especially in an already crowded and chaotic world can be a great escape from reality. One of the ways to achieve this could be creating a Zen garden in your own home, regardless of size.

A Zen garden, according to Bruce Joshua Twinomurinzi, a landscaper at Divine Structures, is a minimalist dry landscape garden that uses a combination of rock arrangements, gravel, sand, moss, and occasionally, small shrubs or trees. 

Each of these elements holds symbolic meaning, with large rocks symbolising mountains or islands, moss or shrubs symbolising vast plains, and raked gravel patterns considered rippling water. 

They also often feature plants and offer a space to connect with nature, especially when placed outdoors. They are primarily appreciated for their beauty and versatility, allowing for multiple customizations such as the addition of water features, fountains, walkways, and various rock arrangements. Also known as a Japanese rock garden, a Zen garden, is carefully designed to create a quiet and meditative environment, which can also be customized to suit an individual’s purpose. 

Here is what to consider before incorporating a Zen garden in your home


Raymond Kirungi, a facilities manager, Broll Uganda Limited, says the garden require adequate space, whether it is indoors or outdoors. Zen gardens can be customized to fit small or large areas. The bigger the space, the larger the Zen garden one can make and the reverse is true.


Natural light enhances the garden’s aesthetic appeal. Choosing a spot that receives ample light will give better results for one’s garden.


Live Zen gardens require regular upkeep, such as raking the gravel and pruning plants. This, however, is where real plants have been used, for plastic plants only need cleaning in case one is in a place with dust. In both, however, it is necessary to rake the gravel or sand to maintain its appearance.

Outdoor Zen gardens, according to Twinomurinzi, may require plants and materials that can withstand local weather conditions.


Thinking about how the garden will integrate with the existing decor and design of your home is crucial. For indoor gardens, ensure proper ventilation and consider humidity levels. One also needs to plan the layout and choose the materials that best suit their vision and available space. 


Assessing one’s budget for initial setup and ongoing maintenance will help one know what kind of garden they can afford. This also helps one know which materials to look for. This is because different materials have different price ranges. One may even want to make a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) garden, but this may take creativity, time, and a bit of expense for some materials one just cannot get for free.

Ideal place for a Zen garden

The ideal place for a Zen garden depends on its intended use and the available space. For an outdoor garden, a quiet and secluded area is best, away from heavy foot traffic. If placed indoors, consider a location that is easily visible and accessible, such as near the main entrance, to create a welcoming ambiance. The Zen garden can integrate with the existing landscape as the natural light and elements enhance the experience. Though they enhance the overall look of the landscape, they require more space and more resources. For the indoor space, it is easier to maintain and can be placed in dedicated corners.

Why you need a Zen garden

A good place for meditation

Many individuals, according to Twinomurinzi, seek Zen gardens to create a peaceful environment that promotes relaxation and reduces stress. The act of raking gravel can be a meditative process, helping to clear the mind.  A Zen garden also offers a dedicated space to engage in introspection encouraging a deeper sense of calm and focus for those practising meditation or mindfulness.


Zen gardens add a unique and minimalist beauty to any space. Their simple, yet elegant design, can enhance the visual appeal of both indoor and outdoor areas.

Nature connection

Zen gardens incorporate natural elements such as rocks, gravel, and plants, helping people feel more connected to nature, even within an urban setting. This, then, creates a soothing and harmonious environment. 

The stones are the bones of the Zen garden, chosen for their shape, texture, and colour, then arranged to form the framework of the landscape. The sand or gravel, raked into precise patterns, represents the flow of water, inviting contemplation on the nature of life.

Property value

Unique features such as a Zen garden, Kirungi says, are great for a property developer who is looking to sell or rent, because they can command a premium atmosphere, potentially increasing the property’s value.

Types of Zen gardens

Dry landscape gardens

Dry landscape gardens, or “karesansui,” according to Zenfusionhome, are the embodiment of Zen garden design. They are composed of rocks, gravel, and sand, each element meticulously placed to create a scene that evokes mountains, rivers, and islands. These gardens are often found in Zen temples, where the act of raking the gravel into patterns is a meditative practice in itself.

Moss gardens

Moss gardens, the excerpt says, are a verdant variation of the Zen garden, where the green carpet of moss brings a sense of calm and continuity. In Japan, moss is revered for its ability to grow in silence, without disturbing the tranquility of the environment. In your own moss garden, you can experience the soothing effect of this vibrant greenery, which requires minimal upkeep yet offers maximum peace.

Tea gardens

Tea gardens are designed to prepare the visitor for the tea ceremony, a ritual that epitomises mindfulness.

“As you follow the stepping stones, each step is an invitation to leave behind the noise of the world and enter a space of quietude. The tea garden is not just a physical path but a metaphorical journey towards inner stillness,” an excerpt in Zenfusionhome.